Hour One – Cue the Flaming Zeppelin.

Karen likes crossword puzzles because they make time pass quickly. Karen makes quilts and donates them to charity because she savours the way quilting slows down time. Karen finds it strange that people who militantly remove time-expired dairy products from their fridges think nothing of abandoning a bottle of Kraft Catalina salad dressing on the fridge’s door condiments shelf for years at a time. She herself is guilty of this crime. Karen remembers her ex-husband, back when things were good, scanning the fridge door and saying “Jesus, Karen, this bottle of Thousand Islands remembers where it was during the Kennedy assassination.”

Karen is almost forty and had thought she’d never find anyone again, but now she’s flying to meet the man she hopes will become her lover. She is sitting in an aluminium fuselage singing eastward, eight kilometres above land. She’s a little too warm, so she undoes two buttons at the top of her dress, hoping that if anyone sees her they won’t take it as a sign that she is a slut. Why, she thinks, should I care if strangers think I’m a slut? But I do. Then she remembers that everyone has a camera these days, and any of those cameras might photograph her. Oh, those cameras! Those little bright blue windows she always sees from the back-row in Casey’s school hall, jiggling sapphire matrix of memories that will, in all likelihood, never be viewed, because people who tape music recitals tape pretty much everything else, and there’s not enough time in life to even review a fraction of those recorded memories. Kitchen drawers filled with abandoned memory cards. Unsharpened pencils. Notepads from retailers. Dental retainers. The drawer is a time capsule. Karen thinks, Everything we leave behind us as we move from room to room is a husk.

There’s a teenage boy across the aisle in the row ahead of Karen who has glanced her way a few times on this flight. Karen is flattered to think she might be considered hot – albeit a “hot mum” – but then she also knows that this horny kid probably has some kind of sin detecting hand-held gadget lurking in his shirt pocket, lying in wait for Karen to undo more buttons or pick her nose or perform any other silly act that was formerly considered private, a silly act that will ultimately appear on a gag-photo website alongside JPEGs of baseball team portraits in which one member is actively vomiting, or on a movie site where teenagers, utterly unaware of the nation of cause and effect, jump from suburban rooftops onto trampolines, whereupon they die.

Modern technology be damned. Karen fiddles with er buttons. Her stomach grumbles. The right side of the plane is too bright, and she looks further down the fuselage and she remembers an old TV movie in which all of the passangers in the 747 in mid-flight abruptly vanished, all save 5 who had been asleep and for that reason avoided vanishing. In the movie, the vanished passengers were represented by the clothing left behind in their seats. But Karen thinks it through a bit further. What does it mean for someone to vanish?  Obviously your clothing would be left behind. But so would things like hair extensions, toupees, jewellery…the list would go on…dental veneers, crowns, pacemakers, metal pins left from bone surgery…she thinks it through further… well, to be unpleasant, there would also be undigested food and – wait – now that she thinks about it, hair would be left behind, too, because TV cop shows have told her that hair has no DNA in it, save for the root follicle. And then, what about bones? Bones are made of calcium carbonate, which is just a chemical and not specific to Karen; bones would also have to be left behind – perhaps not that marrow, but… but wait, hadn’t Karen once read that for every cell in the human body there are ten times as many outsider entities, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi? So those, too, would be there along with the clothing. Yuck. Your body isn’t even a body – it’s an ecosystem.

Karen decides to push it further…what about water? Water is just water, and not technically part of what defines Karen as Karen, so all the left behind clothing and other muck on the 747’s seats would be soaking wet. But then…but then what about all the cells in the body? How would they be classified: Karen or not-Karen? Egg cells would be left behind, as they’re only half Karen, not pure Karen, only half of her DNA. Wait – here comes that word again, “DNA” … DNA. If Karen were to look deep into a sample cell, say a skin cell, it would become clear that only her DNA is actually her. The rest is just proteins and fats and enzymes and hemoglobin and…

…and then Karen has a vision of her soggy remains there is seat 26K. Rising from them would be ghostly, gossamer-thin pantyhose-like creature made solely of Karen’s DNA – the only thing about her she can honestly say is her. Pantyhose! Probably not even pantyhose, as all of the DNA extracted from her cells would be unconnected – all of her DNA would be a fine powder maybe the size of an orange. And then Karen is humbled, because she thinks of how little there is that makes her different from other people , a puff of dust. How corny and woo-woo and Eastern religion-y. And yet… and yet that’s what is her – or is any of us. Dust. And somebody had better tell those fundamentalist Christians waiting for the Rapture to leave out some buckets and mops for those who are left behind.

Karen snaps out of her reverie. Her neighbour one seat over is watching a Discovery Channel documentary about larger things chasing and killing and eating smaller things. The Airbus 320 makes it’s laboured hushing sound. Karen wonders what Warren will be like. Karen met Warren on the internet, and Warren is going to meet Karen in the cocktail lounge of the Toronto Airport Camelot Hotel. A cocktail lounge! How sleazy and how wonderful – and best of all, how low-commitment! If she and Warren click, it might be time to get a proverbial room upstairs. If the click doesn’t happen, then it’s right back to the airport and the next plane home. Nature, thinks Karen, was very cruel yet very efficient when she invented clicking. But what if there is no click: she likes Warren, but only likes him – liking without clicking? Well, it never works that way, does it?

 

Off to soul crushing meat market it is.

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